When I woke up on the morning of my fortieth birthday, my back hurt. It had never hurt before. My eyes suddenly didn’t work, either.
Blurry. Never been blurry before.
Then it was my hips. My elbows.
Jowls started growing.
I removed a distressingly long whisker from my chin which had not been there the night before.
I think I had a hot flash.
All before getting out of bed on my fortieth birthday. My body had aged overnight.
That was six years ago.
Strangely enough, I have continued aging. Every day. One day closer to death.
Between my blurry eyes and that first whisker, and today: I got divorced, lost twenty pounds, started running, dated a bit, kept running, met the Man of my Dreams, started eating a lot of sour cream and butter… pretty much every meal has cheese, sour cream, gravy, crème: you name it. If I can put butter in it, it’s gonna happen… I slowed down on the running, published a book, grew an empty nest, and began gaining weight in an alarming and distressingly voluptuous manner.
I don’t mean voluptuous in the good way. These lady lumps ain’t pretty. Ain’t no one ready for this jelly! I mean voluptuous in the gelatinous way.
And, since I am no longer twenty… or even thirty-nine… my fatty bits are migrating. I used to put a bit of weight on my thighs, my ass, my boobs. But now?
And the flabby bits above my hips. The back fat that I can feel wobbling as I walk down the hall.
Back fat I pinched in the ab machine at the gym. I’m serious. I have bruises.
Back fat bruises easily.
Woooba wooooba wooooba.
Helicopter landing? Hippos wading out of the Mersey?
No. Ms. Broadbent rushing to first class.
So I have decided, with the supportive insistence of my friends, that it’s time to hit the gym. Like a geriatric whale at low tide.
I am intimidated. Totally.
My belly is a solid thunk of flesh that sits on my lap like a small round creature afraid of the sun. I try to cover it with baggy clothes. I try to tuck it into my panties.
They aren’t big enough. And trust me, extra large is… large.
Woooba woooba woooba.
My friends… all gorgeous, accomplished, fashionable women with coordinated outfits and flowing locks… and I go to the gym and get the tour from the incredibly tiny gym woman. The one with a six pack.
I have a keg.
Her legs are as big around as my pinkie. I could snap her like a twig.
My back fat got pinched in the ab machine. I can’t crunch all the way without squeezing my belly roll until it makes gurgling noises of resistance and defiance in the face of this new idea of… exercise. “Don’t crunch me,” I can hear it wheeze. “Just fill me with that cream cheese dip you make with the chicken and sour cream. They we’ll both be happy!”
And, there are people at the gym. Skinny people. How come none of them get stuck in the ab machine and have to be rescued by the Jaws of Life?
And even worse… my students. Teenage boys whom I have anaesthetized with Shakespeare mere hours before, are flexing and sweating and… laughing? At me? Stop that! Detention!
I can’t give you a detention at the gym?
Yes, I am wearing spandex. Stop laughing.
Life is so unfair.
So, to avoid the skinny people and the dangerous machines and the unprofessional inevitability of swearing at my students, I started running with the dog. My Love’s dog, not mine. My dog’s legs are two inches long, and it seems cruel to make him run, especially when he glares at me from his softy cushion in front of the fire and says, in his German accent: Fuck off.
Funny how a weiner dog can be so eloquent when it’s zero degrees outside.
So I run with TK, a long legged Chesapeake. It’s actually quite embarrassing, because while I am gasping and thrusting my mighty Self down the road, certain I am breaking the sound barrier, TK is walking.
Having a dog to run with means that when I come to the end of my limit, which I do several times in the course of my run, I can slow down and walk, crawl, let her drag me home, and if anyone sees us I can pretend it’s all about the dog.
“She needs exercise.”
It’s not about me.
The dog weighs sixty pounds. My left breast weighs sixty pounds. I weighed sixty pounds when I was three.
It’s only gotten worse since then.
So, if you see me and TK running, or if you happen to spy me at the gym, please look the other way. It will be better for both of us, trust me.
What’s that sound, you ask?
Woooba wooooba woooooba.
A helicopter. It’s a fucking HELICOPTER, ok?